FTA issues ROD for Portal Bridge EIS

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor, Railway Track & Structures; and Engineering Editor, Railway Age
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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) that formally adopts the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Portal Bridge Project on the Northeast Corridor.

The project is seeking to replace a century-old swing bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey with a high-level, fixed-span bridge. The existing Portal Bridge hosts close to 450 New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains per day traveling between several points in New Jersey and Penn Station New York. They inlude Amtrak trains, and NJ Transit Northeast Corridor Line, North Jersey Coast Line and MidTown DIRECT trains on the Morristown, Gladstone and Montclair-Boonton Lines passing through Newark Penn and Newark Broad Street Stations connecting with the NEC at SWIFT Interlocking.

Portal Bridge has become a major bottleneck and source of delay of train traffic due to the aging mechanical components that sometimes malfunction while opening and closing for maritime traffic. The new bridge, estimated to cost $1.64 billion, will eliminate the movable components and risk of malfunction.

The project is currently in the project development phase of the FTA’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program. The project’s partners, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ Transit and Amtrak, are seeking $811 million in CIG funding toward the $1.64 billion total cost. The ROD is a part of the environmental review process required by law for projects seeking federal funding through the CIG Program. Additional steps must be completed according to legal criteria before the FTA can make a determination about CIG funding for the project.

In July, USDOT released the Draft EIS for the Hudson Tunnel Project, with the Final EIS expected to be issued in March 2018.

In May, the NJ Transit Board of Directors approved a $14.5-million early action contract with PKF-Mark III Inc., of Newtown, Pa. The work includes the realignment of a 138kV transmission pole, the installation of new fiber optic cable poles, the construction of a construction access structure known as a finger pier, the construction of a steel bridge structure over the Jersey City Municipal Utility Authority water main and the construction of a retaining wall just west of the Frank R. Lautenberg Station at Secaucus Junction. Work began in July and is anticipated to be completed by the first-quarter of 2019.

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